From Thursday’s cooking class:
From bottom, in clockwise order: cumin, salt, pepper, ginger, paprika, turmeric, and in the center chili pepper.
I am now in the habit of doing a food class of some sort in any new city I visit. So I booked a cooking class in Tangier through Viator.com.
The promised four-hour class was two hours only, but I was the only one present and had the attentiveness of two different chefs.
And I learned a few things. For instance, the chef was so attentive to appearances. We worked on the carrots and the turnips and the potatoes until we had rounded edges. I also learned how to make authentic Moroccan couscous.
I also learned about smen, which is preserved butter with a distinctive taste and an almost cheese-like texture. The scent is pretty overwhelming. One flavor indicator might be ‘rancid.’
The chef spoke a bit of English, and I bit of French, and the sous chef knew more English, so we got along fine. Most of the ingredients were named in French only, and we had a fun game trying to learn each other’s terms for the veggies and the spices.
At one point I asked her how couscous was made, and she said “Cannot do in English.” I said “let’s do French,” and after she gave me a sidelong look of bemusement, off she went. I got most of it, thanks to copious hand motions as well.
The lesson excursion started with a driver collecting me at the hotel. We parked at the base of the medina and walked just a few blocks up hill to the Palais Zahia, a swanky hotel. The lesson was in the hotel kitchen.
On the menu: chicken tagine, and couscous with golden raisins and almonds.
And thick, sugary mint tea.
Oh yes — I got to taste her homemade almond paste (heavenly) and the local high-end argan oil, from a local tree. The taste was like a nutty olive oil. And so delicious.
The hotel itself is a recently renovated wonder of Moroccan crafts — tile, plaster, ceramic, wood painting.
But take one look from the windows of the top-floor restaurant and see reminders of reality:
Antenna dishes are everywhere here. Everywhere.
Greetings to friends and family around the world. I write on the day of the winter solstice, and note with sadness that this world seems particularly darker than it did a year ago. I pray for light and truth to again be kindled in the hearts of those who lead, and who alone can set to the tone for this world.
May it be so.
Even with the death of my father in the waning days of 2017, my own 2018 has been significantly brighter than national and international news might allow!
Winter. A solo cabaret act. Loads of teaching and concert-going and the robust time of the year at the office. A quiet winter without any significant travel except for a quick trip to Naples, Florida to see Spencer go on as Prince Chulalongkorn in The King and I.
Spring. Begins with a trip to Moscow to discuss collaborations. Attend a concert in Tchaikowsky Hall. Tourist for full, long day in Moscow. Holy Week in London, with services at St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey. My former student sings Gerontius at King’s College Cambridge. Wrap up the school year with a sizable graduating class. Pack up and finish work on my father’s estate. A week in NYC, and confirmation of a budding relationship. Solo/ensemble contest brings solid results. Senior recitals with three voice students. Attend the Tony Awards. Celebrated the completion of 10 years at Webster University.
Summer. Begins with a week in Lincoln at a conference. Then to Vienna on the Messing Faculty Award for three weeks of research and curriculum development. Side trips to Stockholm and Florence. Allergies abound in Vienna! Wept copious tears at the sight of Michelangelo’s David. Start the new school year with days of meetings, and a robust new-student class. Yufei visits Saint Louis. Start work with Variety Children’s Choruses as the new conductor. Celebrate my 57th birthday with a day of museum visits in Vienna, and a screening of The Third Man at a kino.
Autumn. Auggie turns 8. Sabbatical begins in mid-October. Accept a gig with Circus Harmony as composer and music director for the big January show. Start traveling immediately. Chicago with Yufei. Toronto and Niagara Falls with my nephew Luke. Washington, D.C. (pandas!!) and NYC with Yufei. Chicago again. And Christmas at home in Lee’s Summit with my sisters. Attend multiple Circus Harmony classes and practices. Conduct a holiday concert with the Variety Children’s Choruses. Attend Joffrey Ballet and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Over the course of the year I’ve witnessed powerful live concert performances. Viewed some of the world’s greatest artworks. Learned more about cooking. Kept up the slow renovations on a 100+ year-old home. Enjoyed some stunning meals (Stockholm, Vienna, Chicago, NYC all were gastro-delight locations). Worshipped in grand and beautiful spaces. Composed some decent music. Shot loads and loads of photos (I’m starting to understand light much better). Whipped up homemade plum jam and blood orange marmalade. Taken various architectural tours. Read more books than the year before, and also a big chunk of the Bible. Extended my cufflink-buying spree with a dozen new pairs. Imparted lessons about singing, and about life, with students. Loved on my dog. Caught up with friends in far-flung places. Bought more new eyeglasses. Fallen in love.
Not a bad year indeed.
May 2019 bring us comfort and joy and challenges that we can together address.
A group of 23 gathered Monday for a tour through the Florence Central Market, and then around the corner to the cooking class location.
Martina and Mario taught us how to make, in order:
We all took turns with the tiramisu making. And we combined our pastas in one big pot for cooking.
And the results were glorious.
My associate Jean the Magnificent, who keeps my life in order at Webster University, received an early Christmas present last evening, as we went to a pizza-making class at Companion Bread.
This was a fun, informative, and completely digestible evening. We gorged on pizza and breadsticks we made ourselves, and we learned about two different kinds of dough.
And did I mention, we had fun?